I photographed the pear tree, just about to produce blossom, on the same afternoon as the flowering currant in my previous post. I hope this proves that the sky was in fact blue. Since then we’ve had snowstorms so I hope the blossom survives.
I seem to have read a lot in March. I am trying hard to get through all the backlog on my Kindle. I might manage it in April, at which point I will need to upload all the books I bought from other sites.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison*****(+) I adored this. A young prince inherits the throne when all the family are killed in what seems to be an accident. He is the child of an elf father (the emperor) and a goblin mother (an arranged political marriage). When he becomes emperor of an elvish empire the effects are immediate and far reaching. As well as coping with his unexpected position he has to find out why his father and brothers died, and find a wife who will be politically and personally acceptable. A fascinating story and a wonderful character study. I wanted more but I don’t think there’s a sequel. Highly recommended.
Romancing the Ugly Duckling by Clare London ***** A delightful romance between a stylist totally out of his depth on a Scottish island, and a man who has fled not just London but the mainland to nurse his hurt over his treatment by his family. The story has humour, excitement, and some excellent minor characters.
It takes two to tumble by Cat Sebastian***** Lovely romance set in nineteenth century lake district. Ben is a young vicar who falls in love with Phillip, a widowed naval captain with children. The children almost steal the show, and the locals are a fascinating bunch.
Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde***** This was a gorgeous novel with a very slow burn romance between Calvin and Lucy. The story deals with issues of race in the southern states, and much of the focus iis on Calvin’s son, Justin and his friendship with Pete, a boy from an abusive home who has been befriended by Lucy, a doctor. Friendship is a strong part of the theme, as are the miscegenation laws of the state. The romance has to be put on hold until the laws are overturned, and the ending is hopeful but I would have liked a little more about what the future held.
The very good:
Bay City Paranormal Investigations Box Set by Ally Blue**** This set of stories, based round the characters who run the BCPI team, is absorbing and well written. There are various love interests, both mf and mm, though perhaps too much explicit sex for my taste. I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the major threat the team was investigating was not in fact something paranormal but some kind of sci fi alien invasion. This was never fully explained. They contained the threat – for now – but I would have liked more closure and more acknowledgement of the source of the danger. The conflation of paranormal and alien was slightly off-putting.
A Midwife’s Tale. The life of Martha Ballard based on her diary 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (New England)**** This was an interesting read. It combines a detailed exploration of Martha’s diary with facts and figures about medicine, midwifery and the role of women in New England rural society during her lifetime. As well as being a portrait of a fascinating woman (and her family), it deals with issues such as feminism, social bonds, local justice and the gradual removal of medical matters from the hands of experienced members of the community to male ‘experts’. I was slightly annoyed by the tendency of the author to repeat what had just been said in the diary extracts. Presumably she did not trust her readers to concentrate on the content.
Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries (vol 1) by Ashley Gardner**** The boxed set contains three novels and two short stories. Captain Lacey is back in London after the Napoleonic wars, and is involved in a number of criminal investigations. His old sergeant is a Bow Street Runner and is able to offer some help. Early nineteenth century London is portrayed in great detail. Whilst I found the books interesting I did not altogether empathise with the main characters and will probably not buy volume 2. However, if you like historical crime stories, I can recommend the series.
Sea Kissed by Spencer Spears**** A young man is washed up on the shore with no idea of his identity or how he came to be half drowned. He is found by a recluse who is initially just glad not to be recognised. Their stories are gradually revealed, to them as well as the reader. The blurb suggested this was an mm retelling of The Little Mermaid, but it was a very long way from the original, particularly because the recluse did not really fit the role of the prince . However, it did have a fairy tale quality, albeit with a thoroughly modern happy ending.
Lessons in Solving the Wrong Problem by Charlie Cochrane**** A nice new problem for the Cambridge Fellows, though as usual, I prefer the longer novels to the novellas so this didn’t make five stars. I did enjoy revisiting Jonty’s family from the earlier books in the series. Recommended to all who are following Jonty and Orlando, but for anyone who isn’t, the story might not make a great deal of sense since it references other cases and events without going into detail.
Close to the Bone by Kendra Elliot**** (Widow’s Island 1) I prefer the longer Mercy Kilpatrick books by this author so, like Charlie Cochrane’s book, this doesn’t achieve five stars. Elliot is a good writer and her mysteries are well crafted. I liked the setting, with the islands just off the coastal resort being the venue for death as well as romance.
Cowboys don’t ride unicorns by Tara Lain**** A cowboy/bull rider meets an interior designer when the latter comes to the stud farm for a short holiday. The attraction of opposites is immediate and intriguing. There is plenty of angst, not least over the dangers of bull riding and the homophobia of the cowboy’s father.
The Custodian of Marvels (Fall of the Gaslight Empire 3) by Rod Duncan**** This final volume in the series was just as exciting as books 1 and 2 but I felt the end was rushed and then there was the kind of glossary as an epilogue. That gave a potted history of events, and distanced me from the actual ending. Altogether I enjoyed this steampunk adventure but I preferred the first two volumes.
All Systems Red (Murderbot 1) by Matha Wells*** I read rave reviews of this but was disappointed. It was well written and the author seems to get into the ‘brain’ of the robot lead character. But I felt the plot was too slight and predictable (murder and mayhem on a planet during exploration) and I don’t feel inclined to follow the series. I think the use of a robot as narrator is an excellent idea, but I prefer my sci fi with more depth to the story and the world as well as the characters.
Stranger in the Room (Keye Street 2) by Amanda Kyle Williams *** This was a well written but improbable crime story centred round the cousin of the lead detective. Because of her previous addiction and other problems, the police have not believed the cousin’s reports of a stalker. I would (like the detective) have liked more clues. There are deaths and horrors that culminate in a threat to both cousin and detective.
City of Perfect Moments by Annabeth Chatwin*** This is a YA mm romance – teens meet (and bond) and then face hostility for being weird rather than being gay – it’s well written but not my kind of book. If any reader has a teen who has problems with their sexuality it might be a good choice.
Winter Solstice in St Nacho’s by ZA Maxfield*** Another well written mm romance in the St Nacho series. This one spent most of the time following recovery from addiction which I’m sure is a worthy issue but not one I particularly wanted to read about. I was looking for an escapist romance and got a rather heavy and angst-ridden one. I enjoy the overall concept of the series, that the town draws those who will benefit from being there.
Haunted by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt *** This turned out to be a short prequel and I was quite disappointed. A sceptical TV ghost hunter meets an insurance guy who has left the police force because of his reaction to what could be ghosts. A great concept, but this was too short to explore the characters properly, and the investigation was also too brief. I probably won’t buy the sequels in case they’re equally brief and unsatisfying.
Spellbreaker by Charlie M Holmberg*** Like Paper Magic by the same author, this story had a really fascinating and detailed magic system but this was combined with flat characters and plot. Elsie could be a good heroine but was never properly developed. Bacchus was an interesting character and I assume the pair will combine their skills in future volumes. However, I won’t be reading about them.
Next to Disappear by Malcolm Richards *** (Emily Swanson series) The crime in this novel is based on a true story about psychiatric treatment but amateur detectives Emily and Jerome are not very believable. Nor is the way Emily is first drawn into the investigation. I will not be following the series.
The Same Breath by Gregory Ashe*** A fairly good mm romantic thriller set in Utah against a background of Mormon upbringing. It was not as good as Pretty Pretty Boys, and I read it because I was waiting for the sequel to that. Tean is a wildlife vet and has to help Jem find out what has happened to his brother who has been investigating ecological damage.
The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave** I was looking forward to a thriller set in North Wales but the story was boring, about unlikeable characters, and was padded with unnecessary info dumps about Welsh history and legends.
A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelly York and Rowan Allwood ** This couldn’t make its mind up. Was it a ghost story? A school story? An mm romance? It was mostly unpleasant and was told in a style that didn’t quite match the intended Victorian England setting.
And the abandoned:
The Soul Killer by Ross Greenwood. When the tale switched from the killer’s life story (not a trope I enjoy) to a very boring detective I gave up.
Cathedral of Lies by John Pye. The blurb suggests the reader might solve the puzzle for themselves after the end of the book. So, as I don’t really play armchair detective games, I didn’t really start reading.
Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green. There were letters and possibly diary entries. There were a lot of italics which I find hard to read when they last for pages and pages. There was no ‘hook’ to interest me in whatever the story might have been about.